THE "C": MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE

Jason Gregor
August 30 2013 08:31AM

Based on the emotion, conversation and amount of articles I've seen since Wanye wrote Sam Gagner will be the Edmonton's 14th Captain; it is obvious hockey fans are getting restless. The season unofficially begins next week with rookie camp, while thankfully main camp is less than two weeks away, so the focus can go back to whether the Oilers have improved enough to contend for the playoffs.

We've enjoyed the distractions: debate of the captaincy, the return of Linus Omark, Taylor Hall's supposed Olympic snub by TSN and more, but none of that will matter once the puck drops Sept 14th vs. the Calgary Flames. What matters will be if the Oilers have improved.

Like everyone I like a good distraction now and again, so let's look quickly at what's transpired recently.

HALL AN OLYMPIAN

Hall hasn't done enough to be a lock for Team Canada. Hall dominated for 45 games last seasons, but he will need to show Steve Yzerman, Mike Babcock and the rest of the coaches and management team that was just the beginning of his emergence as a great player.

It isn't a knock on his abilities and accomplishments; it's just the reality of the game. You can't overlook Hall's play at the World Championships. You might not like how little Lindy Ruff played him, but Yzerman and company will be inclined to listen to Ruff's opinion more than those of diehard Oilers fans.

I believe the World Championships was a great learning experience for Hall. He had a coach tell him, maybe not with words, but with his actions, he needed to protect the puck better. Hall is a quick learner, and he's a proud player. I have no doubt he's learned from that situation and he will be a more complete player this year.

Oiler fans should be elated that Hall had that experience because it will make him a better player, and if Hall illustrates he's become a better all-around player, his Edmonton teammates will follow. Hall will be one of the leaders of this team, and if he plays with more desire and smarts in every aspect of his game it benefits the Oilers.

I didn't expect Hall to make to be on the Olympic team in August, and him not making the "mock" team shouldn't be a concern. He has three months to impress the Hockey Canada brass, and if he does make that team, that likely means the Oilers will be in the playoff mix entering January.

I believe the coaches have Kunitz ranked higher than Hall today, mainly because of his connection to Crosby, but I don't believe Kunitz makes the team at the end of December. Kunitz can't play better than he did last season, but Hall is just beginning his ascent into the elite category of NHL players.

Rather than worry about a snub on a mock list, fans should be excited about the potential of watching Hall become even more dominant this season.

CAPTAINCY....

Does it really matter who wears the "C"?

I don't believe it does. If the Oilers are going to become a consistently competitve team is won't be on the shoulders or mouth of one player. Behind every good captain are more great leaders. No captain leads by himself.

The obvious example is the Oilers of the early 1980s. Wayne Gretzky was the captain, but Mark Messier wore an "A," and many said he was the main leader. He wasn't, however, the only one.

Gretzky led by never letting up. If he had three points, he wanted four or five.

Kevin Lowe was an intense player, and he always challenged his teammates to be better, even Messier and Gretzky.

If Dallas Eakins ends up debating over who should be captain, then that is a great scenario. If he truly believes, Andrew Ference, Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner, Ladislav Smid or Hall could be the captain that means he feels he has five solid leaders. That is what the Oilers need, a group of players willing and capable of demading more from their teammates, not one Captain who will magically transform them into a winning team.

I'd pick Ference, and have the others wear an "A".

The rest of the Oilers do not know how to win in the NHL. Ference has played more playoff games, 120, than all of the Oilers top-nine forwards and top-four D-men combined. Boyd Gordon (52), Ales Hemsky (30) and David Perron (19) are the only skaters with playoff experience.

Ryan Smyth (93), Ben Eager (47), Nick Schultz (24), Denis Grebeshkov (2) and Jesse Joensuu (1) have also played in the post-season, but I don't see them playing significant minutes this season.

Ference has been to Stanley Cup finals two of the past three seasons, and he averaged 24:31 TOI in the playoffs last year. He wasn't a bit player; he averaged the third most minutes on the Bruins. He won't be the Oilers' best player, but he's been on winning teams and he knows what it takes to win in the NHL. He has the experience and expertise to control the dressing room.

If one of the Oilers isn't competing hard enough, it would be much easier for Ference to call him out than one of the young kids. Ference could use examples from his playing days of how hard and smart you need to play to win in the NHL.

Some feel you can't give the captaincy to a new player. Why not? When Jason Smith was traded to the Flyers they named him captain right away. They had Mike Richards and Jeff Carter on that team, but elected to go with Smith. The Flyers went to the conference finals that year. I'm not saying Smith was the main reason, far from it, but he'd been to a Cup final two years earlier and he knew the commitment level necessary to win in the NHL.

None of the young kids know how to win in the NHL. Winning in junior or at the World Junior Championships is much different than succeeding against the best players in the world.

Being a great captain isn't just about leading on the ice, in fact, I'd argue most of his responsibility comes off the ice. Arranging team outings, approaching the head coach about an issue, speaking to the media daily and giving back to your community are important roles for the captain.

Ference is better equipped to deal with those situations. He has more experience, he's a proven leader and he's already got involved in the community.

He started the November Project in Edmonton. It was started in Boston by a few friends of his, and he's continued the tradition in Edmonton.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning Ference invites people to workout with him and some friends. On Mondays they meet at a park, it changes weekly, and they do a variety of exercises. On Wednesdays they do stairs, usually at Glenora, and then on Fridays they run hills, at a different location every week.

The idea behind the movement is to encourage people to workout and to meet new friends. Maybe you've been scared to go to the gym, maybe you need extra motivation, whatever the reason the November project promotes healthy living. It is a very simple thing, but many people are motivated and excited to train with an NHL player.

To find out where they workout just follow them on twitter.

OMARK

Good for him for signing an NHL deal. I hope he plays well, but I don't see him solving the issues of the Oilers. I chuckled when I read one of the comments in my last article, ripping me for suggesting the Oilers have too much of the same in their top-nine.

The poster wrote, "Why does anyone believe this is true. Give me lines that outshoot the opposition, and draw more penalties than they take, and they can be 5'6 170lbs, or 6'4 225lbs. It is irrelevant."

He also suggested that Yakupov seemed more like a power forward.

Similar isn't just size, it is also the style they play, and no team wins with all similar type forwards. You can live in a dream world believing you will outshoot the opposition and draw more penalties with nine similar forwards, but I can't recall a team in the past two decades who was built that way and won.

You need a combination of skill, smarts, grit, desire, net presence, board presence, defensive awareness, toughness and size. The Oilers don't have that yet, but Craig MacTavish knows this and he'll keep adding and subtracting until he finds the right mixture.

COFFEE BREAK...

I recommend you don't start watching this video until you have a ten minute break at work, because I found it hard to stop watching once I started. If you need a good laugh on Positive Friday, watch this.  

Name something you feel before you buy it? ...Contestant answers... "Excited."

Name a famous Arthur.. Contestant answers... "Shakespeare."

Name something that has to warm up before you use it... Older contestant answers... "How about your wife."

People are funny....

PARTING SHOT....

  • Minor hockey coaches and parents, if you have time today turn your radio to the TEAM 1260 at 3 p.m. today when George Kingston joins me. The former NHL coach has done extensive research on the keys to developing minor hockey players: how we should do it, which drills to use and many other great tips. Young coaches will really appreciate this interview.
     
  •  The CFL has a unique rule that I, like most fans, didn't know existed until Bud Steen told me about it.

    Late in the Eskimos/Riders game Mike Reilly was hit, fumbled the ball and the Riders recovered, essentially ending any hope of an Eskimos comeback. The play was reviewed, because it was in the final three minutes, and they deemed it a fumble. What many don't know is that the Command Centre could have overturned the play if they felt that unnecessary roughness caused the fumble.

    Weldon Brown delivered an inadvertent helmet-to-helmet hit on Reilly on the play. It wasn't malicious, but it was clear contact to the head. Yesterday, the CFL fined Brown for the hit, which is interesting because the command centre didn't believe it was unnecessary roughness. If they reversed the call on the field and awarded the Eskimos the ball, who knows if the Eskimos would have scored, but at least they would have had a chance. Making Brown pay a fine after the fact doesn't impact anyone. The fine is minimal and it has zero barring on the game. If the rule is there, why didn't the command centre enforce it?
     
  • Spec's Deck sold out in less than a week. A huge thank you our sponsors.  Prestige Limos who will pick you the winners, Vons Steak House and Oyster Bar who will feed us, Big Rock who wiill quench our thirst and to Yellow Cab who will make sure everyone gets home safe and sound.

    Also, a huge thank you to all of you who donated for the cause. We raised $10,000 in five days. Awesome.

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR 

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#51 pkam
August 30 2013, 01:51PM
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@Jesse

What's wrong with Jason telling people how to enjoy hockey? If Jason shouldn't tell people how to enjoy hockey, why should you tell people how to express their opinion?

And if can tell Jason how not to tell people how to enjoy hockey, what is the problem when the majority of fans here tell you not to tell Jason how to express his opinion.

My friends sometimes tell me how to eat certain food, like fries with vinegar instead of ketchup. So am I supposed to tell them that they should keep their mouths shut and stop tell me how to enjoy my fries?

It is so obvious that most hockey fans here were not offended by Jason's style of writing and disagree with your opinion. Funny you think criticism is a good thing except when your are the receiving end of the criticism. Have you even consider that those are constructive criticisms?

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#52 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
August 30 2013, 03:14PM
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Jesse wrote:

It is amazing what happens when Gregor's writing is critiqued. The critique itself goes unaddressed and the cavalry comes in to his defense.

Jason, I was merely making mention that you often tell your readers how they should feel, and that this is problematic. It baffles me that you are unable to accept a critique in humility and furthermore that you think that your writing is above criticism. I do appreciate the vast majority of your writing, but apparently if one doesn't pump your tires and come to your defense at a moment's notice like the rest of these guys then you have no use for an outsider's opinion.

Talk about an echo chamber of self-flattery.

Jessie Jesse that's that's that's not not not true true true true.....

I'm I'm I'm I'm amazing amazing amazing amazing....

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#53 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
August 30 2013, 03:21PM
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Jesse wrote:

It seems as though you're being purposefully obtuse.

You expressing your opinion is not what I take issue with, unless you expressing your opinion involves telling people how they ought to enjoy hockey, which you did in this article, and which you've done on previous occassions. That's my whole point.

"You don't have to agree with it, that is your right, but saying I told people what to do is hilariously false."

Well, you obviously didn't understand what I said. I said that you are telling people what they should and shouldn't be excited about, what they should and shouldn't like. You have done exactly this, by saying, "Rather than worry about X, you should be excited about Y."

I also never said I felt the gist of your article was in the point I raised. If you can quote where I said that, go ahead, but the text doesn't exist. I commented on what I felt like commenting on, beacuse I felt it was one issue in an otherwise good article. I'm not sure why I need to join the multitude of adorers fawning over your writing and giving props to your comments to take an issue with one aspect of your writing.

Your not from here are you?

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#54 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
August 30 2013, 03:27PM
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Jesse wrote:

I am pointing out that attempting to dicate how hockey fans enjoy hockey is asinine. I'm not being hypocritical, because it is okay to tell people what they ought to do in certain circumstances.

The statement "never give up" shows someone giving up on the practice of giving up, but still has merit.

I'm telling Jason he shouldn't tell people how to enjoy hockey. If I were telling him he shouldn't say "shouldn't" to people in any and all scenarios, then this would be hypocritical.

Good Lord, one bit of criticism and the whole freaking thread blows up. Criticism is a good thing, it holds people accountable and keeps us on the straight path of discovering truth.

I'm confused....are you happy the thread blows up with criticism of you because it holds you accountable and keeps us on the straight path of discovering truth?

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#55 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
August 30 2013, 03:33PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

So we are on a path to discovering truth because of how you interpret something. Deep, very deep.

Curious why you never responded to the guy, Nick, who asked about your blog?

Gregor, you should be happy to learn that the Dhali Lama is a hockey fan!

You can read the blog at www.spiritualleaderoftibet.com. (P.S. Gregor, any tips on how I should best enjoy this Sundays NFL games?)

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#56 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
August 30 2013, 03:33PM
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Not to be confused with his cuz ....Rama Lama.

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#57 OilClog
August 30 2013, 05:04PM
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Serious Gord wrote:

Funny, my sources - and they are exceptionally good ones - tell me that iginla was a cancer in the room beginning about the time that phaneuf joined the team and that he was a complete disaster the last couple of years.

I'd get angry, turn sour too if I saw everything pissed away for ashes... wait.. Oiler fans know his pain all too well.

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#58 Reg Dunlop
August 30 2013, 10:15PM
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@Jesse

Hey Jesse, congratulations on finishing the first year of a general Arts degree. 3 more to go and you can start applying for work at fast food drive-throughs.

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#59 Dennis
August 31 2013, 08:49AM
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That video sucked

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#60 Harold
August 30 2013, 09:57AM
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Jason perhaps he should watch this video, which I believe is funnier.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htU6qYsLsEE

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#61 djc
August 30 2013, 10:13AM
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Jesse wrote:

It is amazing what happens when Gregor's writing is critiqued. The critique itself goes unaddressed and the cavalry comes in to his defense.

Jason, I was merely making mention that you often tell your readers how they should feel, and that this is problematic. It baffles me that you are unable to accept a critique in humility and furthermore that you think that your writing is above criticism. I do appreciate the vast majority of your writing, but apparently if one doesn't pump your tires and come to your defense at a moment's notice like the rest of these guys then you have no use for an outsider's opinion.

Talk about an echo chamber of self-flattery.

Never mind. Didn't see Gregors response when I posted ...

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#62 Nick
August 30 2013, 10:13AM
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Jesse wrote:

I do write a blog, and when people critique it, I listen so that I might improve upon my writing. It's an age old concept.

What is the link to your blog, so we can read your improved writing.

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#63 Where's Your Towel
August 30 2013, 10:27AM
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Rama Lama wrote:

I have been amused and intrigued with all the talk over who should become captain.

All sorts of things have been talked about, age, expereince, respect as a player, and the list goes on. I say that whomever sets and keeps the tempo of the game consistently should deserve consideration.

In my mind Hall is the logical choice..........there is no close second. As far as the whole debate goes it's nice to have so many good players to debate about. The future looks bright for the Oilers.........and my spidey senses tell me that Mac T has another surprise up his sleeve.......bye bye Hemsky.

If Mac T publicly states that he's "done" even once over the long weekend, Hemsky better have his bags packed by Tuesday.

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#66 Ryan
August 30 2013, 12:12PM
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I think you are missing the main purpose of a team captain.

The primary job is not social organizer, face of the team for media, or talking to the refs.

The captain's job is to run the dressing room. This is a very difficult job, so you need a very strong personality and one that is respected by the team. With that in mind, your suggestion of Andrew Ferrence is likely spot on. The problem is we can never know or understand the dynamics of any dressing room unless you are part of it. This is the reason many captaincy choices seem confusing. It may very well be that when Gagner speaks in the room, everyone listens. He may also have a very good sense of how to run a room.

My favourite story about these dynamics was from several years ago in Calgary when Phaneuf was becoming a strong presence in the league. Apparently he was challenging Jarome's leadership. The Flames were Jarome's team and everyone knew that. It came to a point where Jarome decided that everyone had to leave the room except for himself and Dion. Everyone left. When they were invited back in, it was clear that there was not going to be a change in leadership, and also unlikely anyone would want to challenge for that leadership any time soon. Calgary was very fortunate to have someone like Jarome to run their room for so long.

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#67 Oiltimer
August 30 2013, 12:35PM
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@ Ryan

Any evidence of bruising or contusions ?

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#68 master of my domain
August 30 2013, 12:39PM
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I'm a Scientist! wrote:

@JasonGregor...

Thought you would enjoy this - i am surprised it wasn't in your gameshow movie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WDQetso2cQ

another good one

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQRMvg5TAl8

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#69 Robin's Bastard Child
August 30 2013, 12:45PM
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@Jason Gregor

And the gloves just came off...

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#70 Benny Botts
August 30 2013, 12:47PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

Great time of year for football fans...

Show me your TD's!

Big fan of this comment, made me chuckle

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#71 Harold
August 30 2013, 01:04PM
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@Jason Gregor

A little more gold for you.

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xjxo4b_mrs-brown-gets-a-bikini-wax_shortfilms

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#72 Benny Botts
August 30 2013, 01:08PM
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Harold wrote:

A little more gold for you.

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xjxo4b_mrs-brown-gets-a-bikini-wax_shortfilms

One of my all time favorites

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#73 Hayek
August 30 2013, 01:08PM
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Any chance it is Jesse Volk, @Oilers2 on Twitter?

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#74 John Chambers
August 30 2013, 01:31PM
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master of my domain wrote:

another good one

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQRMvg5TAl8

Too funny.

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#75 Mj
August 30 2013, 02:16PM
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With I title like that I don't get why there's not a picture of a transformer or at least the opening credits of the cartoon video. That was a missed open net.

For arguments sake the only thing similar about the forwards are maybe size but Omark for instance has extremely good puck possession on the boards where as Eberle will pick handle like a madman and hall will drive the net like crazy and shoot from all angles. I think with the proper combination u can get a lot from the forwards we have regardless of size and who knows maybe Hamilton or joensu plays there way up but as we sit now compared to last years trade deadline team we should slide in at 6th seed with the current roster

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#76 Spydyr
August 30 2013, 02:26PM
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As soon as Mike Reilly took that hit I was yelling at the TV that it was helmet to helmet.To not call it when it happened then issue a fine later shows the incompetence of the officials in the CFL.Some things never change.

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#77 Ryan
August 30 2013, 03:26PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

I thought I wrote that in my article when I said he had the experience and expertise to control the room. I agree it is important. There are many variables that go into being a captain, but I think it is best to let a proven veteran who has one be the main voice, until this team starts winning and one of the kids are ready to take over.

You did mention that about Ference, not arguing there as he would be a great choice.

I feel that the importance of who is Captain is downplayed too much, and the definition of the role is largely missed. Captain's job is to run the room, that's pretty much it. It manifests itself in many different ways; including the ones you mentioned. The C on the jersey is largely for show.

But the selection of who it is, that it is just one, and that the selection is in harmony with the team is very important. Have many leaders is great, but you always need ONE at the head of the table. The other issue is if the coach selects a player that is not seen as a leader by the team, you create a lot of discord. When I was playing junior with a coach who later went on to the NHL, he selected a player that he loved and the team hated. The dressing room was broken because of this.

I agree with your selections of who would be a good fit, and with the longer term approach. I just disagree with the perceived lack of value you place on captaincy and what the role of captain entails.

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#78 Harold
August 30 2013, 03:40PM
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@Benny Botts

Might as well go for the hat trick.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFIQIpC5_wY

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#79 Larry
August 30 2013, 03:52PM
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DSF wrote:

Selanne back with the Ducks:

http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=430824&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed

Wow! A refreshing comment from DSF! Jesse is the new DSF

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#80 Six Rings
August 30 2013, 04:02PM
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Jesse wrote:

You do the same thing when you debate hockey with callers on your show. I phrased it in a very overly philosophical way, but we're all trying to figure out what is happening with the Oilers, the truth about the team. Perhaps it sounded silly, but it's what we're all doing.

For everyone who is lambasting me for not talking "hockey" on a hockey blog, I am *talking about* talking about hockey, which is obviously lost on many who have responded.

As for why I haven't posted a link to my blog in a comment thread where your most ardent supporters with the biggest crushes on you are here to trash every comment I leave, I would think that that would be obvious. I do not see that as a constructive way to engage in dialogue that helps us better understand hockey, or, as I obviously phrased it poorly before small-t truth.

http://pisanisbeard.wordpress.com/

You're welcome everyone...trash away.

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#81 Tikkanese
August 30 2013, 04:20PM
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The fact that we're able to argue over many names who should be Captain is a very good sign for the Oil.

Like it has been said many times, you don't need a letter to be a leader.

The Oilers seem to have a bunch of qualified candidates. More up arrows for our Oilers!

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#82 Curcro
August 30 2013, 06:17PM
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@Gregor

I am sitting here very confused and perplexed. I am not sure how I am to feel about this article.

I know how to feel about the TSN mock draft.

There were, however, no instructions on whether to enjoy your blog or whether to be angry and irate.

So I find myself in a place where unable to think for myself I don't know what to do.

I now find myself on a path of Truth as instructed by @Jesse. I have discovered that Wanye is not Wayne - I find myself having flashbacks to August 9, 1988.

STOP! STOP! STOP! Someone stop this ride. I can't handle the truth.

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#83 oilerman53
August 30 2013, 10:59PM
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*Drinks Kool Aid*

Mmmmm this some good kool aid by the way, I never take anything TSN has to say seriously. Their yearly assessment of any NHL team west of Toronto, east of Vancouver isn't worth the time. I've seen countless reports on Reimer and Kadri as many times as I've seen the Big Bang Theory reruns on CTV.

Hall on one of the scoring lines for Canada makes sense on the big doesnt it? I mean it should right? Hall with the foot speed of a bobsled and hands to boot. I'm glad that there are actual hockey minds choosing the team rather then what TSN has to say, hell they had to run a piece on the America team for the sole purpose that Kessel will be on that team.

This kool aid has me thinking that after a few stinkers in the nineties and the past decade. The Oilers are still the most successful team within the last thirty years, seven Stanely Cup appearances, five victories. Hard to argue with this logic, I really hope that they can finally put it together this year, I can care less if Hall and Ebs get selected I just hope they can finally lift this team into some meaningful hockeg come april.

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#84 Velo
August 31 2013, 08:55AM
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Jesse, you should come out to November Project...free hugs in the AM! Destination Deck has been set! #Verbal

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